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Wednesday, 9 June 1915

Mr PIGOTT (Calare) .- I congratulate the Minister on the impartial attention he has promised to give to the suggestions which have emanated from both sides of the Committee in regard to the development of the Territory. The price of beef and mutton is high at the present time, and that fact, although it is a great disability to the community, will be of great assistance to the Minister in helping him to develop the Territory. The great difficulty in the past has been that the pastoralists have not been able to get sufficient value for their products. However, I do not wish to say anything further on this question, having already expressed my views. I doi wish to appeal to the Minister, however, to do something for the people of Norfolk Island, which is situated about 800 miles from Sydney, and has an area of about 8,000 acres and a population of 900. Its imports were valued last year at £9,000, and its exports at about £1,700. The residents are practically cut off from communication with the mainland. A steamer visits the island only once a month, and is unsuitable for taking away the produce. Having regard to the high price of beef in Australia, I think it would be a good policy to encourage the development of the fisheries of Norfolk Island. The islanders have three or four whale-boats, and those members who visited the island recently noticed that the boats returned after an absence of a few hours laden with the best varieties of fish. In order to give the islanders encouragement and to develop that industry, the Government might very well consider the advisability of providing them with a steam-launch or trawler.

Mr Riley - Do you mean that the Government should make a free gift of a trawler?

Mr PIGOTT - I do not think it would be altogether a free gift, inasmuch as it would help the electors of South Sydney to obtain cheap fish. In conjunction with the trawler the Government should establish a refrigerating plant for the islanders, and transfer the fish frozen there to the Sydney market.

Mr Mahon - Would that not be a socialistic undertaking?

Mr PIGOTT - I do not care what sort of proposal it is. The Australian people require fresh fish, the islanders are in need of a means of livelihood, and it is only proper that the Government should do something to assist them. Another industry which has been neglected is whaling. The islanders have to go for many miles in ordinary whale-boats in pursuit of a whale, and in some instances they have had to tow a whale behind an ordinary row-boat for two days, whereas if they were provided with a launch they could prosecute their industry with more vigour. Something might be done to encourage the industry of drying and smoking fish. The islanders know nothing of our requirements, and I think that some person of experience should be sent there to teach those people the fishcuring business, and to produce other articles which are much needed on the mainland. The Commonwealth grants a bounty of £d. per lb. on dried and smoked fish. In 1912-13 there were only five establishments engaged in this industry, and the bounty amounted to only £103 for the 49,440 lbs. produced in the Commonwealth. The importations of dried and smoked fish in .1912 totalled 26,000 cwts., worth £76,327. On this subject Knibbs says - t

The abundance of fish in Australian waters offers excellent opportunity for the institution of preserving establishments, particularly in those coastal districts which enjoy a temperate climate. Up to the present but little development has taken place, and the establishments for fish preserving at the present time are very few.

I think this industry requires only a little encouragement from the Government and it would be quickly established. The Norfolk Islanders are under a great difficulty, because of the absence of any anchorage for vessels calling there. The steamer has to anchor in the open roadstead, and the residents never know on which side of the island the steamer will stop ; its anchorage depends on the state of the wind. The steamer is able to remain at the island only a few hours, and the consequence is that as soon as the vessel comes to anchor every vehicle in the island is requisitioned in order to carry, the produce to the point of embarkation. If the residents were provided with a steam launch, it would obviate the rowing of their produce for 1 or 2 miles to the ship's side, and the spoiling of perishable commodities by the salt water. We were treated excellently on the small steamer Mal:ambo. which carried us from the island to the mainland; but if some arrangement could be made for the steamer Levuka to make a detour of about 50 miles to the island, the people would be much better served. The small boat was overcrowded ; many passengers had to take accommodation in the smoking room, and I understand that on the last trip some men had tq sign on as members of the crew in order to secure passages. What is required is a vessel with up-to-date refrigerating accommodation, so that the perishable products of the island may be landed in good condition on the mainland. The fruit industry of Norfolk Island also presents great possibilities. Never have I tasted more luscious oranges than those grown on the island. I find that lemons.' oranges, and other fresh fruits imported5 into Australia were valued at £217,796 , and I am sure that Norfolk Island would, be able to supply from £15,000 to £20,000 worth of fruit for the Sydney-market, if facilities were provided for bringing their produce in good order to the mainland. I have mentioned these two or three items in the hope that the Minister will do something for these islanders, who are certainly deserving of consideration.

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